On the Relationships and Adaptations of Kenyapithecus, a Large-Bodied Hominoid from the Middle Miocene of Eastern Africa

  • Monte L. McCrossin
  • Brenda R. Benefit
Part of the Advances in Primatology book series (AIPR)


The phylogenetic relationships and adaptations of Kenyapithecus have been of special interest since Leakey (1962, p. 696) first described the genus as possessing a number of characters exhibiting “a marked tendency in the direction of the Hominidae.” Expectations regarding the hominid affinities of Kenyapithecus influenced the reconstruction of many functionally and phylogenetically significant aspects of its anatomy in the absence of tangible fossil evidence. The type species Kenyapithecus wickeri is represented by four jaw fragments, 11 isolated teeth, and a distal humerus collected from a single site, Fort Ternan (Pickford, 1985). As of 1985, the hypodigm of the referred species Kenyapithecus africanus consisted of the type maxilla together with 46 isolated teeth, four incomplete postcranial pieces, and a poorly preserved mandible collected from the Maboko Formation and an isolated lower molar from Nyakach (Pickford, 1985). Features for which little or no fossil evidence existed, but which Kenyapithecus was said to share with hominids, include: small lower incisors relative to cheek tooth size, reduced incisor procumbency, arcuate dental arcade, short rostrum, and a humerus that is longer than the femur (Simons and Pilbeam, 1972). The supposed reduction in upper canine and lower incisor size, and facial abbreviation, in combination with thickenameled molars in Kenyapithecus was interpreted as being related to an australopithecine-like emphasis on molar grinding resulting from the consumption of hard objects (Andrews and Walker, 1976), with incisors being “relatively unimportant in food preparation” (Simons and Pilbeam, 1978, pp. 149, 152).


Middle Miocene Proximal Humerus Distal Humerus Mandibular Symphysis Lingual Cingulum 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Monte L. McCrossin
    • 1
  • Brenda R. Benefit
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologySouthern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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